Wednesday, July 30, 2014

2014 season preview: Clemson Tigers


Schedule:

8/30: @ Georgia
9/6: South Carolina State
9/13: BYE
9/20: @ Florida State
9/27: North Carolina
10/4: NC State
10/11: Louisville
10/18: @ Boston College
10/25: Syracuse
11/1: BYE
11/6: @ Wake Forest (Thu.)
11/15: @ Georgia Tech
11/22: Georgia State
11/29: South Carolina

Skip: Duke, Miami, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech

2013 results:

Georgia: W, 38-35
South Carolina State: W, 52-13
NC State: W, 26-14
Wake Forest: W, 56-7
Syracuse: W, 49-14
Boston College: W, 24-14
Florida State: L, 51-14
Maryland: W, 40-27
Virginia: W, 59-10
Georgia Tech: W, 55-31
The Citadel: W, 52-6
South Carolina: L, 31-17
Ohio State: W, 40-35 (Orange Bowl)

Record: 11-2 (7-1); 2nd, Atlantic

Projected starters:

QB: Cole Stoudt (Sr.)
RB: D.J. Howard (5Sr.)
WR: Charone Peake (rJr.)
WR: Mike Williams (So.)
WR: Adam Humphries (Sr.)
TE: Stanton Seckinger (rJr.)
LT: Isaiah Battle (Jr.)
LG: David Beasley (5Sr.)
C: Ryan Norton (rJr.)
RG: Kalon Davis (5Sr.)
RT: Shaq Anthony (rJr.)

DE: Corey Crawford (Sr.)
DT: Grady Jarrett (Sr.)
DT: Josh Watson (5Sr.)
DE: Vic Beasley (5Sr.)
MLB: Stephone Anthony (Sr.)
WLB: Tony Steward (Sr.)
NB: Travis Blanks (Jr.)
CB: Garry Peters (5Sr.)
CB: Cordrea Tankersley (So.)
S: Jayron Kearse (So.)
S: Robert Smith (Sr.)

K: Ammon Lakip (rJr.)
P: Bradley Pinion (Jr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Dabo Swinney (5th season)

Media prediction: 2nd, Atlantic

All-ACC:

2013 1st team: WR Sammy Watkins, DE Vic Beasley
2013 2nd team: QB Tajh Boyd, OT Brandon Thomas, CB Bashaud Breeland
2013 3rd team: RB Roderick McDowell, OG Tyler Shatley, K Chandler Catanzaro, LB Stephone Anthony, LB Spencer Shuey
2013 HM: WR Martavis Bryant, DT Grady Jarrett
2014 preseason: DE Vic Beasley, DT Grady Jarrett, LB Stephone Anthony

(Italics indicate departed player.)

By so many standards, Clemson had an awfully successful season last year: a 10-win regular season followed by a dramatic Orange Bowl win over Ohio State.  The two losses had to have stuck in the craw, though.  The Tigers were demolished by Florida State and ended the regular season with a loss to archrival South Carolina.  Clemson had an absolutely explosive offense, but just enough weaknesses on defense to hold them back from the highest levels of the sport.  This year, they have a strong returning team but are still pegged to finish as the bridesmaid in the Atlantic Conference, and have to replace several key pieces of that nigh-unstoppable offense.

-- Offense

Electric dual-threat quarterback Tajh Boyd is off to the NFL after throwing over 100 touchdowns in three years of helming the Clemson offense, and he's not even the biggest name to leave the scene, as the Tigers must also replace the singularly talented Sammy Watkins at receiver.  As unstoppable as Watkins was, though, Clemson is hoping they can live up to the phrase "reload, not rebuild" at receiver, with some high-potential replacements on the way.

Charone Peake had 25 catches in 2012 and looked like he was on his way to being a quality complement to Watkins after the first two games of 2013, but a torn ACL ended his season in September, and the effects of that injury are still being felt as he recently underwent another surgery and will miss part of fall camp.  If he can return to full health, Peake makes a good starting point in discussing Clemson's WR corps.  Sophomore Mike Williams is a tall, lanky player who had a nice start to his career last year with 20 catches and 15.8 yards per reception, the latter number surpassing even Watkins.  Williams has a good chance to be Clemson's primary big-play threat this year.  That said, it shouldn't be surprising if a freshman grabs that role much as Watkins did three years ago; Clemson brought in a trio of high-four-star talents, and two of them, Artavis Scott and Demarre Kitt, were early enrollees.  They'll be complemented by a veteran presence in Adam Humphries, your stereotypical white-guy possession receiver who had 41 catches in each of the past two years.

In fact, it's probably Humphries who provides the best security blanket for new QB starter Cole Stoudt, who graduates up into the job after three years of backing up Boyd.  Stoudt is a senior getting his big chance in the spotlight this year, but he's not 100% secure as he'll be pushed by five-star true freshman Deshaun Watson.  Stoudt, however, enters the fall as the starter and the job is his to lose.  He completed nearly 80% of his passes last year in eight games of mop-up duty, impressive even given the opposition and the circumstances.

At running back, D.J. Howard is listed as the starter going into the fall, with Zac Brooks as the backup; both carried about 50 times each last year backing up 1,000-yard rusher Roderick McDowell, with Brooks being rather more effective.  Brooks seems likely to surpass the unexciting Howard at some point, and there's a lot of room for a freshman to make his mark; Clemson signed the short but powerfully built Adam Choice, and speedy scatback Jae'lon Oglesby.  Either could move the incumbent veterans aside, as could redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman.  Best guess here is that it's one of these three freshmen who ends up leading Clemson in rushing.

Clemson looks to have a very capable offensive line.  Junior Ryan Norton returns as the starting center to anchor the middle of the line.  Guards David Beasley and Kalon Davis shared the left guard position last season but should each have a spot to themselves this year.  On the outside, Clemson has to replace a couple long-time starters, but juniors Isaiah Battle and Shaq Anthony both have plenty of experience in the rotation - both have a handful of starts under their belts - and the position should be in good hands.  The one kink in the equation is the suspensions handed out in March by Dabo Swinney - Beasley and Anthony will both miss the season opener against Georgia, handing their replacements (Eric Mac Lain and Joe Gore, respectively) a chance to win the job full-time.  At worst, Clemson will have plenty of usable depth along the line.

A final X-factor for Clemson could be sophomore tight end Jordan Leggett, a mercurial player who openly admitted having lazy practice habits last season, was suspended for at least one game, and spent most of the year in Swinney's doghouse.  Leggett possesses great athleticism and could be a real stretch-the-field tight end, if he so chooses.  If not, Clemson will be happy to rely again on Stanton Seckinger, who had 21 catches last year, and senior Sam Cooper, whose 2013 season was limited by an injury suffered in the spring game.

Clemson has a good, solid foundation on the OL and a veteran quarterback who should prove capable of directing the offense, even if this is his first year starting.  The story here, though, could be the infusion of brand-new skill-position talent, just in time to replace some outgoing stars.  Clemson topped 50 points in five different games last year, so they'll be hard-pressed to repeat that incredibly lofty standard, but there's too much potential - even if mostly unproven - for the whole thing to fizzle this time out.  They'll still be plenty dangerous to contend with.

-- Defense

Clemson's front four is getting a lot of well-deserved pub.  No fewer than six seniors highlight the roster here.  Two of them - tackle Grady Jarrett and end Vic Beasley - made the preseason all-conference team.  Jarrett had 11 TFLs last season, an outstanding number for a tackle, and Beasley is simply a terror, racking up 13 sacks and 23 TFLs in 2013.  These two are major contenders for the best at their position in the ACC.

The other tackle spot is a three-way platoon among seniors Josh Watson and DeShawn Williams, and 325-pound junior D.J. Reader.  For the most part this group is steady but unspectacular; Reader's athleticism stands out somewhat as he's also a reserve first baseman on the Clemson baseball team.  All three players started some games in 2013, and Reader was the most productive of the three despite playing the fewest snaps and starting the fewest games (though, the difference in playing time wasn't big.)  Finally, Corey Crawford is the strong-side starter at DE, and is rotated with fellow senior Tavaris Barnes, though it's Crawford who sees the lion's share of time, and earned three sacks of his own last season.

There are some big changes in the linebacking corps this year.  The good news is that MLB Stephone Anthony has one more season as the captain of the defense; he piled up 131 tackles last year, 13.5 for loss, and gives Clemson a guaranteed every-down leadership presence in the middle.  On the weak side, senior Tony Steward is expected to take over.  Steward has seen his role increase every year but still has somewhat less experience than you'd like; still, he was relatively productive in relatively few snaps last year, so he should be at a minimum serviceable, and likely somewhat better than that.  However, a dearth of reliable options on the strong side has made for a situation where Clemson looks likely to rotate in a nickel back more often than not, rather than a Sam backer.  Sophomore linebackers T.J. Burrell and redshirt freshman Dorian O'Daniel will need to prove themselves on the field; for now, safety Travis Blanks seems likely to see the most time in this role as a fifth defensive back, especially (obviously) in passing situations.

Putting more defensive backs on the field could be a dicey proposition, as this was the weak point of the defense last year and looks likely to be again.  There's some depth at safety, as evidenced by the ability to move Blanks up closer to the line as a third safety-slash-Sam linebacker.  Robert Smith led the defense in snaps last year and brings a very steady veteran presence, and Jayron Kearse (nephew of Pro Bowl pass-rusher Jevon) started only three games last year but tied for the team lead in interceptions with four.

Cornerback, however, remains a possible weak point.  Senior Garry Peters has never really broken out, and regressed some last year (partly on account of injury) and as a further blow to his usefulness is among the group of players suspended for the opener.  The likely starters for that game are sophomore Cordrea Tankersley, who saw only 21 snaps last year, and redshirt freshman Mackensie Alexander.  They'll need to grow up fast, and it certainly would not hurt if Peters took a few forward strides as well.

Fortunately for Clemson, that front four looks like it'll be putting a lot of pressure on opposing QBs this year, which can cover up for a few mistakes in the backfield.  Beasley is the guy every OC will be scheming for; he's maybe the best sackmaster in the ACC this year.  Kearse can be a bit of a gambler, though, and the inexperience at cornerback could see Clemson burned by some big plays at times.  This defense may run hot and cold until it gels a bit, and will need its front four to carry it until it does.

-- Special teams

Ammon Lakip is the heir apparent to the extremely dependable but graduated Chandler Catanzaro as Clemson's placekicker.  Lakip has some game experience and hasn't yet missed an extra point in his limited chances.  Bradley Pinion has averaged 39.4 yards a punt in both 2012 and 2013; he doesn't have the strongest leg, but gets good hang time and doesn't allow much chance for a return.

-- Outlook

For once, defense is the talk of the town in Clemson thanks largely to Beasley, Jarrett, and Anthony.  The front four is one of the (if not the very) best in the conference, and they're backed up by one of the conference's best linebackers.  However, on paper this team doesn't look quite as strong a contender as it did last year.  Maybe it's the fact they're breaking in a new starter at quarterback; maybe it's the long list of replacements at the other skill positions (high-ceiling though they may be); maybe it's the uncertain cornerback situation, or the holes to be filled at outside linebacker.

This is not to say the Tigers are suddenly just another team in the Atlantic; they're still one of the top teams in the ACC and a class or two ahead of most teams in athleticism and skill.  But it's not surprising they were overwhelmingly voted second behind FSU, and it's not all just because FSU is the defending national champs with the reigning Heisman winner.  After their September showdown** with the Noles, they'll likely spend the rest of the season playing catch-up and making their case for an at-large selection to a BCS "New Year's Six" bowl.

**I think this makes the third or fourth year in a row I've harangued on this subject: having the ACC's two marquee teams playing IN SEPTEMBER is beyond stupid.  Clemson scored at least 49 points in four ACC contests last year and lost only the FSU game in the conference; could you imagine the hype had undefeated Clemson with their explosive offense met undefeated Florida State with Heisman shoo-in Famous Jameis in November for all the division marbles??  When they met in mid-October, Jameis Winston wasn't quite Jameis Winston yet; he would've been by November even without his 51-point performance against Clemson, and the game could've been billed as having a Heisman Trophy on the line as well as a division title.  Talk about stealing the limelight from the SEC and everyone else.  This year the damn thing will be decided while the leaves are still green.  This is a yearly colossal failure by the ACC scheduling idiots.

Monday, July 28, 2014

existential crisis

I always lament that I don't get to talk about soccer enough, because football is the 800-pound autumn gorilla.  (I mean, I guess I could double my output in the fall, but I don't exactly get paid by the word here.  I have other stuff to do too.)  But what better time to talk about college soccer - and in this case, specifically men's soccer; women's soccer doesn't have the same pressures on it - than when it appears to be facing a doomsday scenario?

That's what it means, I think, when the college coaches get together on a plan that would fundamentally alter the season in a way that no college sport has ever done.  In a nutshell: the season would be 25 games (plus postseason) and split between the fall and spring semesters with a break of a couple months in between.  The College Cup, instead of being held smack in the middle of Christmas season, would be in June, and early enough so as not to compete with the College World Series but after the lacrosse Final Four.

The idea here is to spread out the coach-player development relationship a little.  From the above article:
Student-athletes may not participate in countable athletically related activities for more than 20 hours per week during the short soccer season under current regulations. That figure drops to eight hours in the off-season with a two-hour limit imposed on working with the ball.
Two hours a week for two-thirds of the calendar year is part of the reason college soccer has such a hard time keeping its best talent.  It's an obvious detriment to the career of someone who aspires to a national team or a club abroad.

The benefits of the proposed change are many, and adequately listed at the above link; it's not really worth going over them one by one.  Suffice it to say, I think this change would be a great idea.  So do a lot of people.  Just not the ones in charge.  In fact, the people in charge are some of the ones who'll be putting the squeeze on the hardest.

It's no secret that Jurgen Klinsmann is busy reforming the US development system, and college is decidedly not in his plans.  And to tell the truth, that's probably just fine with the NCAA and its power brokers.  Men's soccer is often seen as an obstacle to Title IX compliance, or to the growth of sports that schools feel will better enhance their reputation.  Witness Richmond chopping soccer in favor of lacrosse.  Towson cut the sport recently too, as did Mount St. Mary's.  Maine did so a couple years ago, and Adelphi College had a D-I team (along the same lines as Hopkins having a lacrosse team) and dropped it to D-II with the rest of their sports.  And now that football and basketball players are making noises about wanting bigger slices of the pie (and sooner or later they'll get it) soccer is an easy target for schools that have to make budget cuts somewhere to comply.

John Infante of Bylaw Blog fame wrote that the proposal "has virtually zero chance of ever being enacted," because he and virtually everyone else suggest that the NCAA has no interest in it.  "Last item on the agenda," writes Infante.  I take it one step further.  NCAA leadership would almost certainly be fiercely and violently against such a plan - they will see this as an opportunity to prove their commitment to amateur athletics.  Anything couched as improving professional development runs totally against the Shining Ideal Of The Student-Athlete, and the NCAA will not stand for that.  In fact, from their perspective, the further they can push college soccer from the professional development structure, the better.  Oh, don't get me wrong: they really like being basketball and football's development structure, because there's money to be made there.  Soccer is a money pit, not a money tree.  Killing soccer as a viable route to the pros would give them an example to point to when they preach about the Glory Of Amateurism - and besides, a lot of ADs would then have an even better excuse to shunt aside a sport that loses money by the barrel and whose existence makes it all the harder to answer to Title IX fanatics.

Since 1991, something like 20-25 men's D-I soccer programs have been cut.  About one a year.  (If I could find the damn link for that again, I'd use it, but you'll just have to trust me on that.)  While the overall effect has probably been neutral or maybe even upwards thanks to D-I expansion, I wouldn't expect that to continue.  Another 20-25 programs might disappear in the next ten years.  MLS is pouring resources into the creation and building of development academies for each of their teams, and expanding the league besides (meaning, even more development academies.)  College is going to be less and less of a winning proposition for players with aspirations.  It'll be a mere diversion for "players going pro in something other than sports," like with other largely invisible sports like wrestling and volleyball.  That's just how the NCAA likes it.  More of an amateur feel, and incidentally, a lot cheaper.  Good on the coaches for trying to stave off the darkness, but it's not so much that their proposal will be dead on arrival.  They're calling 911 and the dispatcher is telling them if they're like to die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

2014 season preview: Boston College Eagles

It's that time.  Football season previews begin now.  I do this for a couple reasons - it familiarizes me with the conference, which is handy when you're trying to sound like you know what you're talking about for the rest of the season, but also there's this: I don't think there's another UVA site that goes as far in-depth, so, you the readers of FOV are the most-informed UVA fans around about the ACC.  Plus it makes August fly the hell by, because it'll be two weeks til game day and I'll be half done.  Anyway, here's Boston College.


Schedule:

8/30: @ Massachusetts
9/5: Pittsburgh (Fri.)
9/13: USC
9/20: Maine
9/27: Colorado State
10/4: BYE
10/11: @ NC State
10/18: Clemson
10/25: @ Wake Forest
11/1: @ Virginia Tech
11/8: Louisville
11/15: BYE
11/22: @ Florida State
11/29: Syracuse

Skip: Duke, Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina, Virginia

2013 results:

Villanova: W, 24-14
Wake Forest: W, 24-10
USC: L, 35-7
Florida State: L, 48-34
Army: W, 48-27
Clemson: L, 24-14
North Carolina: L, 34-10
Virginia Tech: W, 34-27
New Mexico State: W, 48-34
NC State: W, 38-21
Maryland: W, 29-26
Syracuse: L, 34-31
Arizona: L, 42-19 (Independence Bowl)

Record: 7-6, 4th (Atlantic)

Projected starters:

QB: Tyler Murphy (5Sr.)
RB: Myles Willis (So.)
FB: Bobby Wolford (rSo.)
WR: Bobby Swigert (5Sr.)
WR: Shakim Phillips (5Sr.)
TE: Louis Addazio (rJr.)
LT: Seth Betancourt (5Sr.)
LG: Bobby Vardaro (5Sr.)
C: Andy Gallik (5Sr.)
RG: Harris Williams (5Sr.)
RT: Ian Silberman (5Sr.)

DE: Brian Mihalik (Sr.)
DT: Mehdi Abdesmad (Sr.)
DT: Connor Wujciak (rJr.)
DE: Kevin Kavalec (So.)
SLB: Josh Keyes (Jr.)
MLB: Sean Duggan (Sr.)
WLB: Steven Daniels (Jr.)
CB: Manny Asprilla (Sr.)
CB: Bryce Jones (Jr.)
SS: Dominique Williams (5Sr.)
FS: Sean Sylvia (5Sr.)

K: Mike Knoll (Fr.)
P: Alex Howell (Sr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Steve Addazio (2nd season)

Media prediction: 6th of 7, Atlantic

All-ACC:

2013 1st team: RB Andre Williams, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, K Nate Freese
2013 2nd team: OT Matt Patchan
2013 3rd team: WR Alex Amidon, C Andy Gallik, DE Kasim Edebali
2013 HM: OT Ian White
2014 preseason: C Andy Gallik

(Italics indicate departed player.)

This is a good optimistic note to start the season previews with: proof that there's precedent for going from 2-10 to a bowl game in one season.  And if UVA can't quite pull that off, proof that a new coach can make a world of difference.  Steve Addazio parlayed a 13-11 record at Temple into a promotion to BC, and whatever he's doing seems to work.  Nobody (well, almost nobody) thought they'd find their way to the postseason, but there they were, finishing the regular season on a hot streak and with a 7-5 record.

This year the odds seem just as long.  Picked 6th by the media, there may be good reason for that as BC took multiple body blows in the attrition department.  They're left with clumps of good players in some places, but other units have been utterly decimated.  Addazio hit a major sophomore slump in his second year at Temple, and has a major challenge here to avoid another one.

-- Offense

Let's start with the one major positive: an interior line that most teams would kill for.  A trio of fifth-year seniors with a combined 74 career starts anchors the whole offense here.  Center Andy Gallik is a Rimington watch-lister and the media's preseason choice for top center in the ACC.  Bobby Vardaro, now a fifth-year senior, is entering his fourth year as a starter at left guard, and the Eagles really liked RG Harris Williams going into last year and he did not disappoint.  Whoever lands the job as top running back will have a field day, or 12 of them really, running behind that line.  There'll be a battle at tackle, however; the lead spots for now likely belong to last year's backup LT, Seth Betancourt, and Florida grad student transfer Ian Silberman, but the Eagles also look to redshirt sophomore Jim Cashman and senior Dave Bowen to provide competition.

Running back is just one of many position battles on the offensive side.  Bowling ball back Myles Willis has a chance to be a really good one, having had a solid season as Andre Williams's primary backup last year, carrying 60 times for 346 yards.  Tyler Rouse is similarly built and will get his shot as well, and the Eagles bring in a couple of talented freshmen, particularly the highly-sought Jonathan Hilliman.  This should be more committee-based than last year when Williams piled up over 2,100 yards and BC was pumping him for the Heisman.

If that seems like a lot of production to replace, though, that's nothing compared to receiver.  Alex Amidon caught 77 passes for the Eagles in 2013; the next-highest total on the roster was 14.  And the next-highest total for a receiver was 11.  Thanks to graduation, transfers, injuries, and position changes, BC has one single receiver on the depth chart who caught a pass in 2013.  Suffice to say, depth is a problem.  The return of Bobby Swigert should help; Swigert is a capable player, but spent a season and a half on the shelf, so rust will be a problem.  BC brought in grad student transfer Shakim Phillips from UConn (Phillips began his career at BC in the first place) and he should find a way pretty quickly to the top of the depth chart after catching 60 passes in two years at UConn.  BC will also expect true freshman Thad Smith to play a part, and they return Dan Crimmins (the aforementioned lone returner) and have moved backup QB Josh Bordner to receiver as well.  Bordner and Crimmins are huge targets and should be able to help out in the red zone.  Long story short, Addazio has managed to piece together a unit that should be reasonably functional, but has a lot to live up to in a hurry.

His quarterback this year will be Tyler Murphy, another former Gator that Addazio had recruited to Gainesville.  Murphy is described as a dual threat, but only managed a yard per carry last year.  SEC starting experience is a plus; the fact that Florida's offense was startlingly ineffective last year is a minus. Murphy was not bad as a Gator, but the offense didn't move especially well.

Quite a bit depends on Murphy.  BC has a foundation on the interior line that's the envy of most of the league, and has weapons in the running game that are unproven but carry plenty of potential.  Swigert and Phillips make a passable top pair of receivers.  If Murphy can put it all together, BC's offense could surprise.  A lot has to go right, and this team is depending on more players than you'd like that are coming off injuries or haven't shown much on the field, but the potential is there, and Addazio has an offensive background and did a very nice job of making it work last year.

-- Defense

Boston College's signature unit lately has been the linebackers; the top three tacklers last year were the three starters at LB.  Two of those are gone this year, with the lone returner being Will backer Steven Daniels.  Daniels had 88 tackles last year, with 6.5 TFL, a pick, and a forced fumble, and there's no reason to expect he won't be as productive again.  On the other side, BC turns to Josh Keyes, who started two games last year and was as maximally productive as you could expect of a fourth 'backer when the first three average over 100 tackles apiece.  Sean Duggan will man the middle; he had a very good 2012 season (again, for a reserve) but all but disappeared last year.  He may be pushed by true freshman Connor Strachan for playing time, or he may break out and collect 100 tackles of his own.

Up front, there's a lot of turnover.  After a pitiful 2012 in which the Eagles collected only six sacks all season, the D-line turned it around last year and became a productive unit.  Connor Wujciak returns as a long-time starter; he's a line-clogging, 300-pound DT who'll be joined by Mehdi Abdesmad, who had 17 tackles in only four games before going down for the season with an injury.  The Eagles also like sophomore lineman Truman Gutapfel, who played in 10 games last year as a true freshman.  That should be a very solid defensive tackle rotation.

End is a little trickier, as no starters return.  Brian Mihalik has played well as a veteran reserve and will get a good chance at a starting gig this year; he's started the odd game in the past and has plenty of experience.  Nobody else has much, though.  Kevin Kavalec got in three games as a true freshman last year and Nick Lifka is a redshirt junior with only a handful of games under his belt.  There's an opening for heralded freshman Harold Landry to make an immediate impact.  Landry committed to BC early in the 2014 cycle and stuck with it when everyone - OSU, Auburn, FSU, South Carolina, Miami, and a whole host more - tried to pry him away.

Helping with the transitions at linebacker and DE will be a very veteran secondary.  Safeties Sean Sylvia and Dominique Williams are both fifth-year seniors with a ton of experience, and both are more than solid players.  Cornerbacks Manny Asprilla (also a senior) and junior Bryce Jones picked off two passes each last year and it's fair to expect them each to continue to improve on that production.

BC always relies heavily on its linebackers, and this defense could go a long way if the newcomers to the starting lineup can fill those very large shoes.  There's high hopes for Keyes in particular.  They'll need once again to find a pass rush and they'll likely ask Keyes and Daniels to play big roles there in order to help out the inexperienced defensive ends.  With veteran safeties and DTs, this should be a very stout run defense, and having veteran corners will be a big help when the pass rush isn't up to snuff.  But I think this unit will be solid overall.

-- Special teams

Nate Freese was a good enough kicker to actually be drafted (by the Lions, in search of some stability after the retirement of Jason Hanson) and he handled punting duties too, so a big hole is left.  True freshman Mike Knoll and senior Alex Howell will be the primary kicking competitors; Howell looks very likely to be the punter, though his experience consists of five kickoffs in three years.  Fun fact: Howell is the younger brother of former UVA punter Jimmy Howell.

-- Outlook

The media pegs this team as the 6th-best in the Atlantic Conference.**  I'm not convinced it's that desperate.  Granted, this is the tougher of the two to win; having FSU, Clemson, and now Louisville on the schedule makes things hard, and it's not any easier since BC crosses over against VT.  Their other crossover this year is Pitt, a game they play early and which will serve as a bellwether for the season.  Add USC to that and you've got a tough schedule.

However, the Eagles should also be able to find three wins in the OOC with little trouble.  VT isn't quite what they were, either, and the Eagles did knock them off last year.  (This year, that game is in Blacksburg, though.)  BC can certainly go bowling; they probably need to beat three of Pitt, NC State, Wake, Syracuse, and VT to do it.  I think they will, and though they're not really contenders for the conference title, I think they outperform their sixth-place finish in the media poll.

**I'm still on my kick of calling these things conferences and not divisions and I will be until they fix this shit.  You're not in the same conference as a team you play once every six years.  NFC teams play the AFC more often than that.  Hell, National League teams play the American League more often than that.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2013-2014 Cavalier of the Year

There's one last thing to do before plunging headlong into the 2014-2015 season and the pre-basketball autumn diversion that begins it.  There's an award to hand out, and, due to popular demand, it comes once again with the traditional crappy photoshop of the winner:




This was definitely one of the more interesting votes we've had.  From the get-go it was a three-way race, and I think Joe Harris's candidacy was assisted just enough by his signature on a three-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers in recent days.  Two of those years are guaranteed, a very rare move for a second-round pick in the NBA and as much of a guarantee as you'll ever see that Harris has made the team.  Cleveland has been working on Harris's supporting cast ever since drafting him.  For now he'll have to do with some castoff from the Miami Heat, but Joe has faced down similar challenges in the past and I'm sure he'll be willing to share some of his shots.

Harris was actually not my own vote for the winner, but I think his story is a fantastic one regardless.  We have been phenomenally privileged to watch his career in Charlottesville - the kid from Chelan, Washington, who took a chance on a struggling program, worked his butt off for four years and rewarded himself, his coach, and his fans with a long-sought championship, taken from the ACC's Darth Vader under some of the brightest spotlights in the country.  And now he gets to go play with basketball's biggest star on basketball's biggest stage.  Four years of humble and hard-working, excellent basketball, rewarded with a championship and a multi-million dollar contract - it's a story you never seen in college hoops anymore.

For posterity, here are the voting results:

Joe Harris - 39
Morgan Brian - 36
Danielle Collins - 24
Jasmine Burton - 12
Nathan Kirby - 5
Kevin Parks - 3
Mark Cockerton, Alex Domijan, JB Kolod - 1
Elly Buckley, Denny McCarthy, Nick Sulzer, Courtney Swan - 0

Harris wins with one of the lowest (if not the lowest) vote totals in voting history, but that's much more a testament to the strength of the competition this year.  Collins put a national championship trophy in the case and Brian is one of the 8 or 10 best players of her sport in the whole country, not just in college.  Congrats to the winner and the nominees for once again representing the University of Virginia with nothing but the best.

Monday, July 21, 2014

kickoff

ACC media days are going on, so I think it's time to say goodbye to the offseason.  Not that it lasted very long.  What would you rather be, a UVA fan where the offseason lasted a month, or a Tech fan where it lasts eight?

I can start writing football previews as soon as the last piece of media days comes out - the preseason all-ACC team.  So I think the first one will be Wednesday.  Being that I save UVA's for last, the football kickoff around these parts will only be a few odds and ends of thoughts today.

-- The football roster is out.  It came out after the basketball roster, which would be a bit odd except I'm never fully capable of accounting for the behavior of the athletic department, especially when it comes to football and/or public relations.  (I'd guess the football roster release is timed for media days, but hell if I know.)

Anyway, the main thing to check for: Missing names.  And there are a few.  We knew of some transfers already: Jake McGee, Kye Morgan, and Demeitre Brim, to Florida, Stony Brook, and Central Florida, respectively.  Not seen on the roster, with no explanation as yet: Tyrell Chavis, C.J. Moore, Marco Jones, and Anthony Cooper.

The impact to UVA's roster is mainly theoretical, as none had ever played much if at all.  Chavis's career was imperiled from the word go, for reasons which have been purposely kept out of the public eye.  Moore fell out of favor with the new defensive staff.  Cooper and Jones represent a fair bit of missed opportunity, particularly Cooper, about whom fans will always wonder why he got immediately moved to safety, buried, and never got a shot at receiver.

That much attrition puts the roster at 81 scholarship players, so, with 18 seniors and a smallish 2014 class (i.e. plenty of room to work in some early enrollees from '15) it's possible, in an ideal non-hot-seat-coach world, to barrel past the limit of 25 players with no problem.  The actual problem might be finding enough players - good players, not guys we stole from Liberty - to fill the class.  Between attrition, plenty of room, and the difficulties of the trail, any coaching change this year will crush our depth something fierce.

-- As if there weren't enough attrition, this little gem came out of media days too: "Mike London says LT Jay Whitmire will "likely" miss the start of the season due to back issues."  Oh, goody.  Can't wait to see what the O-line looks like without its best veteran.  There's a reason I harangue on the depth issues there.

-- You've also got the preseason team poll coming out today.  Florida State took 109 of 112 first-place votes in the Atlantic Conference; guess which was the only team not to get any first-place votes in the Coastal?

It's easy to say we're really blowing a big opportunity here, what with such parity existing in the Coastal, but I'm looking a little deeper.  There are 112 voters and we got 142 points in the poll.  Math skillz tell me that somewhere between 5 and 30 voters picked UVA not-last in the division - and five would mean those five picked us second, so it's probably much closer to 30.  Another step or two of logic tells us this about the ballots of those that didn't put UVA in the cellar: those people think a 2-10 team is better than another team that somebody thought is the best in the division.  Pitt and Georgia Tech are both someone's champion, and likely enough, someone's worse-than-UVA.  That's parity alright.

Also, UNC got the second-most #1 votes but is 4th; VT got the 4th-most #1 votes but also is the only Coastal team picked to unseat FSU as ACC champ.

-- I've updated the depth chart by class and will do so again if and when a fall-camp depth chart is published.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

2014 baseball recruits, part 1

I usually write this series earlier in the year, but then, the baseball season usually ends earlier in the year.  The baseball team is going to have quite a few holes to fill in the field next year - more holes than we had semi-regulars.  The pitching staff is OK, but the lineup loses the majority of its composition, with openings at first, second, catcher, left, and center.

Catcher is probably spoken for with Robbie Coman likely to fill in for Nate Irving, and I'd guess from here that John LaPrise will take over at second while Matt Thaiss is the top candidate to fill in the DH spot left open by LaPrise.  It's too bad Rob Bennie decided to leave the team because with two outfield slots coming open, he'd have been a prime candidate.  Other than returning starters, the full list of other unmentioned position players on the roster is Thomas Woodruff, Tyler Allen, and Tony Butler.  Woodruff is a rising senior who's played in 24 games with no starts in three years; the others might have more untapped potential, but their appearances were extremely limited this year.

So incoming position players, particularly outfielders, have about as good a path to immediate playing time as could be expected.  The Hoos also lose four key bullpen pitchers, but are a little more capable of filling from within, so probably at most one or two of the incoming five pitchers might play decent-sized roles.

There were 11 commitments for the year, 10 of which will show up in the fall; time to see about them.

Derek Casey - RHP
Hanover HS (VA)
Drafted: 22nd round (675th overall), Cardinals

Don't be fooled by the low-ish draft selection.  Casey is one of the most college-ready pitchers in the nation, and had a much higher draft projection going in.  In fact, he had an offer from the Chicago Cubs for a $900,000 bonus if they took him in the 3rd or 4th round, and turned it down.  The 22nd-round pick is just a flyer at that point.

Casey is a really hard thrower, with a fastball that reaches 94, 95.  The MLB scouting report suggests his secondary stuff is behind his fastball, developmentally, but Perfect Game likes his stuff just fine.  It could be that Casey will follow the Nathan Kirby path, where Kirby's perpetually hanging curve and flat fastball led to him being beaten around as a freshman, but once he figured it out - whoa.  In any event, Casey looks like a prime candidate to see a lot of time on the hill right away.  He likes the idea of closing, though Oak and K's may want a more polished pitcher in that role in the short term (Sborz?).  But the sky's the limit here, and while most of the top roles on the staff are likely spoken for next year, one of them - weekend starter, closer, etc. - is Casey's for the taking eventually.

Charlie Cody - INF
Great Bridge HS (VA)
Undrafted

UVA kept the Great Bridge pipeline going (Cody will follow Connor Jones from the Wildcats to the Hoos) and beat out a few pretty big teams for his commitment.  UNC, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina were all on Cody pretty hard.  Cody has been a prospect for a long time, hitting .477 as a freshman and never really letting up his whole high school career.

Except, that is, this year, when he broke his hand early in the year and lost most of his senior season.  Cody plays third base for Great Bridge, and might've gotten a later-round pickup from a major league team without that injury.  He's described as having good speed and very good, though not quite elite, all-around skills as an infielder and a hitter.

UVA has a veteran third baseman coming back next year in Kenny Towns, but Towns is a senior, making Cody a candidate for that job as a sophomore in 2016.  Earlier playing time, if any, is likely to be found at second if Cody can make that demanding transition, or possibly first base (though he wouldn't be the only freshman candidate for that job, and Pavin Smith would be tough competition.)  Cody's no sure thing to pan out as a full-time starter, but should be considered at least a strong candidate.

Tommy Doyle - RHP
Flint Hill HS (VA)
Drafted: 35th round (1054th overall), Nationals

Not quite on the level of Casey as a prospect, Doyle was nonetheless on the radar screens of the pros.  He's another one that might've been picked higher had he not been committed to UVA.  I'm going to attach a healthy level of skepticism to the "first three rounds" projection from "a scout" as there's much less concrete foundation for that than Casey's much more solid offer, but there's still plenty of evidence for his being a real prospect in the draft.

Doyle finished his senior season as the co-Player of the Year in VISAA's Division I (this is the private-school league in the state) and allowed just one earned run all season.  Doyle's a big, tall, hardthrowing righty - his fastball isn't quite the speed of Casey's, but perhaps most important for his projectability, Doyle already pitches from that little squat that Karl Kuhn teaches.  Doyle already looks remarkably like a UVA pitcher, and as such, should be a top candidate of this class to at least fill one of the open bullpen roles in 2015.

Devon Fisher - C
Western Branch HS (VA)
Drafted: 20th round (614th overall), Red Sox

Fisher signed following the draft for about a $300K bonus, so he won't be coming to UVA.  In an interview which I can't find anymore, Fisher mentioned that college was a back-up plan all along, which makes you wonder - if so, why commit to one that effectively puts a PROS STAY AWAY sign on your back?  $300K is a way-above-slot bonus for a 20th-rounder, but even so it seems possible Fisher would've earned more money by signing with a different school.  At any rate, "backup plan" is something he certainly never mentioned to the UVA coaches, who won't recruit a player whose pro leanings are too heavy.  Best not to shed too many tears over this one and move on.

Jack Gerstenmaier - INF
Freeman HS (VA)
Undrafted

Reportedly a package deal with Cody, Gerstenmaier joins a somewhat crowded infield.  Like most top infield prospects, he's a high school shortstop, and he's a good enough athlete to be a pretty good football player too, playing running back his senior year at Douglas Freeman.  (An idea which BOC not only supported, but encouraged.)

Not much is available on Gerstenmaier other than the usual lineup of accolades - all-state team, that kind of thing.  Baseball America calls him "a heady middle infielder with a contact-oriented bat who will likely move to second base in the pros" which sort of suggests he might make that move sooner rather than later.  I've been wrong before (see Waddell, Brandon) but the best guess here is that Gerstenmaier will stash for a year before being a really serious candidate for a starting job.  He could turn out to be a four-year rather than three-year player, a glue-guy regular or semi-regular as a veteran.

Adam Haseley - OF/LHP
The First Academy (FL)
Undrafted

Could be that Haseley is the best undrafted member of the class.  A lefty at the plate and on the mound (precluding his ever moving to the infield except as a 1B) Haseley is tough to project, because he's expected to continue his two-way game in college.  MLB's scouting report calls him "one of the best two-way talents in this year's Draft class" and his outstanding two-way results got him on Baseball America's second team of all-American high schoolers, a list that no other UVA commit made.  (And first overall pick Brady Aiken?  Third-teamer.)

Haseley is one of two outfielders in the class, and the roster next year projects to be so thin on outfielders that it's highly possible an infielder makes the move back.  Haseley and fellow freshman Christian Lowry join returning players Joe McCarthy and Tyler Allen.  Right field is spoken for, but the rest of that competition is wide open.  Like Nick Howard, then, Haseley could start his career in the field and continue to work on his pitching, and blossom later as a pitcher.  For 2015, it's likely we'll see his bat before we see his pitching arm, and he's as likely as any to find himself in the starting lineup come the spring.

**************************************************

Five more players to go, who'll be chronicled next week.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

the recruit: Ryan Bischoff

Name: Ryan Bischoff
Position: OG
Hometown: Plymouth Meeting, PA
School: Plymouth-Whitemarsh
Height: 6'5"
Weight: 305

24/7: 82, three stars; #77 OG, PA #32
ESPN: 73, three stars; #84 OG, PA #32, East #154
Rivals: 5.3, two stars
Scout: three stars

Other offers: None

Juan Thornhill committed before 2014's Signing Day, so Ryan Bischoff is really the first pickup of the cycle.  Being someone who harps and harps and harps on the lack of OL depth, I wasn't at all unhappy to see that first commitment be a lineman.

Like Thornill, Bischoff committed before getting any other offers.  Unlike Thornhill, Bischoff had a little time to receive them; his verbal to UVA was in April.  Does that mean less excitement?  Perhaps a smidge.  Bischoff is a tough prospect to evaluate.  He does have good size, and more than one evaluator suggests he should easily be able to pack on more.  I'll buy it; he's listed in a Philly.com article at 310 pounds, and though the accompanying picture is almost certainly not of a 310-pound kid, it does show how easily he carries a big frame.  310 also happens to be the largest listing of a scholarship player on the UVA roster.  Bischoff could nose his way up to perhaps, say, 325.  Perfect for a big guard.

It's also fairly easy to project him to guard, for two reasons.  One, if he had tackle-worthy footwork he'd be a four-star prospect at his size.  Two, his team runs the ball almost exclusively.  Rivals and Scout each have a different Hudl highlight tape, and in about ten minutes of highlights I think I saw three or four pass plays.  One of which was a receiver screen and another a regular screen.  Maybe one actual, real, drop-back pass with a pocket.  It's largely a read-option offense.  Therein lies the aforementioned difficulty in evaluating.

As such, you can start to see why the lack of early offers.  A guy like that, most teams will see his film and say, OK, let's get him into camp and see if he can do the stuff we want him to do.  Also, the only in-depth evaluation available is ESPN's, and they use the word "flash" (or "flashes") five times.  Honestly, that's not a great sign; it means "can, but doesn't always."  Still, you get the impression his chances to diversify his skill set are limited.

The sum, then, is a player whose impressive size and good strength are well ahead of his technical skills.  Guard naturally offers a faster route to the field, being well-suited to really, really huge guys and with less to learn overall.  It's hard to project a pathway, though.  OG is a bit more of a bottom-heavy position in terms of class; if Steven Moss comes in as a guard, then I count three or four freshman (true or redshirt) and only one freshman at tackle at most.  But it's also way up in the air.  The likely starters are Conner Davis and I guess Ross Burbank.  The post-spring depth chart has three guys who've played meaningful snaps, and so a lot depends on what happens with guys like Jack McDonald, Ryan Doull, Jake Fieler, Sean Karl, and so on.  Bischoff needs time to develop - almost all linemen do, Bischoff perhaps more than many - and the best thing will be if a solid group of next men up emerges.  If there's any pressure to toss Bischoff into the fire early, either he's a very pleasant surprise that belies his low-three-star, limiting-offense pedigree, or we're in trouble.  Much better is that Bischoff follows a path similar to Davis: getting stashed for two years and coming out of storage bigger and stronger and ready to watch his role expand to where he's just a given as a fifth-year senior.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

vote for the 2013-2014 Cavalier of the Year

You've read the bios, or at least, you've got no excuse for not doing so, and now it's time to choose.  I leave the selection of the Cavalier of the Year in your capable hands.  For a refresher, here's a link to each of the candidates:

Morgan Brian - Women's soccer

Jasmine Burton - Volleyball

Elly Buckley - Field hockey

Mark Cockerton - Men's lacrosse

Danielle Collins - Women's tennis

Alex Domijan - Men's tennis

Joe Harris - Men's basketball

Nathan Kirby - Baseball

JB Kolod - Men's diving

Denny McCarthy - Men's golf

Kevin Parks - Football

Nick Sulzer - Wrestling

Courtney Swan - Women's lacrosse

There's a national champion here, there's a national player of the year, several conference players of the year, one conference freshman of the year, multiple all-Americans, and I'd say no fewer than three who can legitimately be called the best to ever suit up for UVA at their sport.

(That bears repeating: Three of these athletes, and honestly, the potential is there for more depending on how they do later on, are UVA's best in our history.  That's truly outstanding.)

A few requests, which are the same every year;

-- One person, one vote, please.  Honor system.

-- If you so fervently believe in your chosen candidate that you want to campaign for them, I have no problem with this.  I encourage this.  But I'd appreciate a note in the comments with a link, especially if you're doing so on Facebook, so I can follow along.

-- As always, I get to interpret the voting how I like, of which the most probable outcome by far is that there's a shared award.  I trust this doesn't offend anyone.  It hasn't yet.

Voting will close on Thursday, July 23 at 5:00 PM, so that I can get busy writing up the winner and then spend one weekend relaxing before it's actually time to start the football previews.

FOV Cavalier of the Year #11/#12/#13

From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight. The full list of nominees is here.  

Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines.  Today's athletes: Denny McCarthy, Mark Cockerton, and Courtney Swan.

Denny McCarthy - Men's golf


Team accomplishments:

-- Won Bank of Tennessee Intercollegiate
-- Won Jim West Intercollegiate with second-best score by an ACC team in history
-- Won Wolfpack Intercollegiate

Personal accomplishments:

-- Runner-up at ACC championship
-- Finished sixth at NCAA championship
-- PING and Golfweek all-America second-teams
-- First UVA golfer to be named to Ben Hogan Award watchlist
-- VaSID golfer of the year
-- Maryland State Amateur champion

In fits and starts, the UVA men's golf team is starting to do things on the national scene.  Right now you've got Steve Marino as just about the only major UVA alum on the tour, but that could change when Denny McCarthy graduates.  This year's edition of the team was up and down in unprecedented ways; for example, they started that Bank of Tennessee tournament 10th of 14 teams and won it over the following two days.  The team's 45-under-par performance at the Jim West Intercollegiate has only ever been beaten once by an ACC team - a Georgia Tech tourney win in 2005.  UVA's previous best score had been in 1993.

McCarthy is the team's top player, easily, and he's rocketed up the leaderboard over the past three years at the NCAAs.  As a freshman he was 77th; last year he was 22nd; this spring, 6th.  That's the second-best finish by a Hoo, ever; not even Marino ever finished in the top ten.  The best?  Dixon Brooke, the 1940 NCAA champion.  McCarthy might need to match that before we declare him the best ever UVA athlete at his sport, but he's still out there making history.

Mark Cockerton - Men's lacrosse - Attack


Team accomplishments:

-- NCAA 8 seed

Personal accomplishments:

-- All-ACC selection
-- USILA third-team all-American
-- Second-straight 40-goal season

Mark Cockerton's career got off to a bit of a slow start, which is understandable since UVA lacrosse always has upperclassmen in the way.  With 29 goals spread across his first two seasons, he didn't seem to be on pace to write himself a spot in the record books.  That changed in a hurry.  Here at the end of his senior season, Cockerton has become the 15th player in UVA history to record 100 career goals; perhaps even more impressively, his junior year (I did say that these nominations sometimes have a lifetime-achievement aspect) is the 4th-highest-scoring single season in UVA history.

And for an encore, Cockerton followed up a 49-goal season with a 47-goal one, placing that season 6th on the all-time list.  Cockerton is now only 1 of 3 Hoos in history to have two 40-goal seasons; he joins Doug Knight and Chris Bocklet in that category, and like those two, has two seasons in UVA's all-time top 10.  Given the illustrious names in UVA lacrosse history, finding a spot among them and accomplishing something many of them didn't, that's an eye-opener for sure.

Courtney Swan - Women's lacrosse - Attack


Team accomplishments:

-- Reached NCAA Final Four

Personal accomplishments:

-- Tewaaraton Trophy nominee
-- Elite 89 Award
-- IWCLA second-team all-American; first-team all-South
-- Second-team all-ACC
-- Academic all-ACC
-- Second-most draw controls in UVA history (single-season)
-- Third-most draw controls in UVA history (career)

Courtney Swan is a pretty good scorer, as scorers go; her 53 goals was 21st in the country, and 80 points was 16th.  (Women's lax is higher-scoring than men's, largely because you can't club the shit out of the ballcarrier.)  That's really not what lands her here, though; more than just about any UVA athlete, Swan is the total package.

For one, a few breaks her way this coming season could see her break two Brittany Kalkstein records for draw controls, both single-season and career; Swan already came within one this past season (96, to Kalkstein's 97.)  For another thing, that Elite 89 Award?  One is awarded in every sport; it's for the athlete at the NCAA "championship site" (for lacrosse, that would be the Final Four) with the highest GPA.  It's not that old of an award; it was first awarded in 2009-2010, and Swan is the second UVA athlete to receive it.  Getting recognized for both athletic and academic elite-ness; that's the very definition of a Cavalier of the Year.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

the school: Louisville

That sound you heard on the first of July was that of a door hitting a turtle in the butt.  Conference realignment, except for a few stragglers next year (mainly Navy joining the AAC) drags itself to a welcome (though likely temporary) halt with Maryland making their move to the Midwest official and a Midwesternish / Southernish school taking their place.

I'm sort of warming to the idea of Louisville in the ACC, because personally I've always thought of the ACC as mainly a southern conference rather than an eastern one.  So while I find Notre Dame's presence still a bit unsettling, a school in the state of Kentucky seems to work.

Like last year with the three new additions, we need to profile this one, especially since they're UVa's default rival for no other reason than they're Maryland's replacement.  I don't care for this, by the way.  It's nothing personal, Louisvillians.  You guys seem so darn happy to be here, I can't begrudge it, and who can blame you when this is basically a lifeboat to the big time?  It's just that I'm a little annoyed at the laziness of the league; Louisville is not a school for whom I can work up as healthy a hatred as I had (have) for Maryland, and would prefer they juggle things a bit to make the rivalries a little more traditional.  That said, I think this is a very temporary situation, at least in football.  Do not be surprised if, by the end of the year, a new scheduling model comes out.

I digress, though.  Last year we looked at each newcomer's prowess through the lens of the Director's Cup, and we'll do the same again.  As an added bonus, we'll also compare to Maryland.  It's only natural, really.  There's a feeling, in general, that Louisville is actually an upgrade athletically, so we'll find out if it's true.

First, the general profile. 16,151

Enrollment (undergrad):

1. Florida State - 31,851
x. Maryland - 26,826
2. NC State - 25,176
3. Virginia Tech - 22,824
4. North Carolina - 18,579
5. Pittsburgh - 18,427
6. Clemson - 16,931
7. Louisville - 16,151
8. Virginia - 16,087
9. Syracuse - 15,097
10. Georgia Tech - 14,558
11. Miami - 11,044
12. Boston College - 9,110
13. Notre Dame - 8,475
14. Duke - 6,495
15. Wake Forest - 4,815

The ACC loses a large flagship institution, which is going to a conference comprised of almost nothing but large flagship institutions.  Louisville is no flagship, but is practically UVa's twin in terms of size.

Academic rank (USN&WR):

1. Duke - #7
2. Notre Dame - #18
3(t). Virginia - #23
3(t). Wake Forest - #23
5. North Carolina - #30
6. Boston College - #31
7. Georgia Tech - #36
8. Miami - #47
9(t). Clemson - #62
9(t). Syracuse - #62
9(t). Pittsburgh - #62
x. Maryland - #62
12. Virginia Tech - #69
13. Florida State - #91
14. NC State - #101
15. Louisville - #161

So about that.  Louisville was originally considered sort of an outside option at best, because of academic rankings that fall a long way outside of the usual standard for ACC schools.  The words "commuter school" have been bandied about, and while there's likely a ring of truth to that, it's largely unfair.  (Louisville claims about 6,000 residents of its dorms and various on-campus living, which is probably not very different from UVa.)   Cooler heads eventually prevailed - ones more interested in the preservation of the conference than preservation of conference-killing standards - and Louisville's ranking ceased to be a factor.  (Look, it's not like UVa is any less of a school for being in a conference with one in the triple digits.)  For the record, UConn (widely considered to be the other "finalist") fits in somewhere between Miami and the four-way tie - but then, Louisville hasn't been banned from the NCAA tournament for never graduating its basketball players.  So there's more than one side to the academics coin.

Directors' Cup average:**

1. Florida State - 8.4
2. North Carolina - 8.6
3. Virginia - 9.8
4. Duke - 10.4
5. Notre Dame - 14.8
x. Maryland - 29.6
6. Louisville - 35
7. Virginia Tech - 38.2
8. Syracuse - 52
9. Clemson - 52.2
10. NC State - 53.6
11. Miami - 60.6
12. Boston College - 65.6
13. Georgia Tech - 67.8
14. Wake Forest - 77.4
15. Pittsburgh - 112.2

**average finish in the last five years, including 2014

In terms of straight average, Louisville comes in a little less than Maryland, but it's not like the difference is huge.  Maryland took a drop recently that coincides a bit with chopping programs and losing money (the ACC has been withholding revenue-sharing from them to pay for their exit fee) while Louisville has been very steadily in the 30s the last four years, and #41 in 2010.  They got to #30 this year, just nipping Maryland at #32.  Anywhere in the top 40 or so, you can pat yourself on the back for a pretty strong program in general.  If the general conjecture is true, both Maryland and Louisville should see a bump in their performance in a few years; the fact that the Cardinals have been doing this without the benefit of major-conference money is reasonably impressive, and they were the only top-40 team outside the big five conferences this year.

Sports we play that they don't

Men:

Lacrosse
Wrestling

Women:

none

Sports they play that we don't

Men:

none

Women:

none

Pretty simple list here, and if I hadn't standardized it the last three times I did this, I wouldn't have done it here, either.  Our women's sports are exactly the same as theirs.  Our men play lacrosse and rasslin', and there exists a small bit of hope that the extra money coming into the Louisville program will be incentive enough to fix that issue when it comes to lacrosse.

Common sports

**Note: The numbers after each year are the Director's Cup points scored in that season.

Men's cross country

2009-2010: 28 (Md. 0; UVA 45)
2010-2011: 18 (Md. 0; UVA 40)
2011-2012: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 61.5)
2013-2014: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 63)

Totals: 46; 0; 209.5

Women's cross country

2009-2010: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 45)
2010-2011: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 32)
2011-2012: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 34)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2013-2014: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 69)

Totals: 0; 0; 180

We begin with a sport where there won't be much threat to whatever it is that UVa's doing.  Maryland's cross-country teams always ran at the back of the ACC pack - and they no longer have a men's team - and Louisville will be an improvement, but no threat to win ACC titles.

Field hockey

2009-2010: 0 (Md. 90; UVa 83)
2010-2011: 0 (Md. 100; UVA 83)
2011-2012: 0 (Md. 100; UVA 0)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 83; UVA 60)
2013-2014: 0 (Md. 83; UVA 25)

Totals: 0; 456; 251

Interesting dynamic here, really.  Maryland is by far the most successful team of the past decade-plus.  In the last ten years they've missed the final four once and won five national titles.  UVA is something of a perennial bridesmaid in the ACC.  We don't have a single ACC title in the history of the competition; someone, usually Maryland or UNC but sometimes Duke, is always getting in the way.

Louisville, on the other hand, is essentially an NIT-level team.  In men's lacrosse, think Fairfield or Drexel, except without even the rare tournament appearance.  They're constantly losing to UConn or ODU in their conference semifinals.  They'll probably be at least respectable to start.  In the long-term, a move to the obvious "it" conference could give them that boost they need to get over the hump; within the first couple of years, though, the likely upshot is that UVA's path to a conference championship just got a little easier.  (But then, so did UNC's.)

Football

2009-2010: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2010-2011: 45 (Md. 50; UVA 0)
2011-2012: 25 (Md. 0; UVA 25)
2012-2013: 63 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2013-2014: 60 (Md. 25; UVA 0)

Totals: 193; 75; 25

Always a little bit of a sleeping giant, Louisville rode Charlie Strong damn near to the top of the football world, culminating in that big Sugar Bowl win over Florida and following that up with a 12-1 season last year.  Strong in turn rode that success to another pinnacle of the football world with a bid to coach at Texas, and so Louisville brought back a guy who they'd had a lot of success with, but whose name became total mud since he'd left: Bobby Petrino.  Dude's a sleaze, but he was also 41-9 at Louisville.

This matters, since UVa will have to play them for the foreseeable future.  Louisville enters the Atlantic Conference and only makes it tougher at the top, adding themselves to the mix with FSU and Clemson.  Whether Randy Edsall was going to make Maryland a threat in the conference is now a moot point; the Cardinals are an upgrade in any case.

Men's soccer

2009-2010: 25 (Md. 73; UVA 100)
2010-2011: 90 (Md. 73; UVA 25)
2011-2012: 73 (Md. 64; UVA 25)
2012-2013: 73 (Md. 83; UVA 50)
2013-2014: 50 (Md. 90; UVA 83)

Totals: 311; 383; 283

The numbers tell the story here.  Traditionally, Maryland is among the strongest teams in men's college soccer, but Louisville is no slouch at all.  UVA, Maryland, Louisville; all three have made appearances in the national championship game in the past five years, and in that time the teams have combined for five Colleg Cup appearances.  The ACC merely replaces one top team with another.

Women's soccer

2009-2010: 0 (Md. 64; UVA 64)
2010-2011: 0 (Md. 50; UVA 64)
2011-2012: 64 (Md. 64; UVA 73)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 50; UVA 64)
2013-2014: 25 (Md. 0; UVA 83)

Totals: 89; 228; 348

In the women's game, though, things are a little different; they're more like field hockey here.  Again, the ACC is the undisputed 800-pound gorilla of the sport, and Louisville's Big East/AAC results have been up and down.  Maryland could usually hold their own in the conference but wasn't a major contender; Louisville will probably be a downgrade.  Since the last three years saw UVa blow the Terps out of the conference tournament, the change isn't likely to make it any easier to win the conference title for ourselves.

Volleyball

2009-2010: 25 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2010-2011: 50 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2011-2012: 50 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2012-2013: 50 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2013-2014: 25 (Md. 0; UVA 0)

Totals: 200; 0; 0

Louisville volleyball had a habit of blowing through the Big East like a knife through wet paper and then bowing out of the NCAAs in the first or second round.  This still makes them a hell of a lot better than our team, which is only just working its way onto the plus side of the standings, and also a hell of a lot better than Maryland's team, which hasn't even made it that far.  It is a long climb to an ACC title for UVA, and getting longer with the addition of another contender.

Men's basketball

2009-2010: 25 (Md. 50; UVA 0)
2010-2011: 25 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2011-2012: 83 (Md. 0; UVA 25)
2012-2013: 100 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2013-2014: 64 (Md. 0; UVA 64)

Totals: 297; 50; 89

Um, Rick Pitino, y'all.  Let's just add him to a conference with Coach K and Jim Boeheim and Tony Bennett and Roy Williams and Jamie Dixon.  Maryland was - is - spinning its wheels under Mark Turgeon, so the ACC just got a heck of a lot tougher.  Well, for the Georgia Techs of the world, anyway.  I'd like to think that it's Louisville that has to contend with the defending ACC champs, not the other way around.

Women's basketball

2009-2010: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 25)
2010-2011: 64 (Md. 50; UVA 0)
2011-2012: 50 (Md. 73; UVA 0)
2012-2013: 90 (Md. 64; UVA 0)
2013-2014: 73 (Md. 83; UVA 0)

Totals: 277; 187; 25

On the other hand, it's the Hoos that are spinning their wheels on this side of the sport.  Louisville and Maryland both are perennial top-25 teams - or better - so there's not much change from UVA's perspective.  We had a way to go before we could hope to contend, and still do.

Men's swimming and diving

2009-2010: 51 (Md. 0; UVA 67.5)
2010-2011: 57 (Md. 0; UVA 70.5)
2011-2012: 59 (Md. 0; UVA 60)
2012-2013: 66 (Md. 0; UVA 47)
2013-2014: 66 (Md. 0; UVA 48)

Totals: 309; 0; 293

Women's swimming and diving

2009-2010: 52.5 (Md. 48.5; UVA 69)
2010-2011: 26 (Md. 52; UVA 63)
2011-2012: 50 (Md. 38; UVA 57)
2012-2013: 52 (Md. 0; UVA 56)
2013-2014: 60 (Md. 0; UVA 66)

Totals: 240.5; 138.5; 311

Maryland axed their swimming programs a couple years ago, so the upshot here will be to add a team back to the mix.  And a pretty good one, on both ends.  Our men's team finished a miserable fourth at the ACC championships this year, which I don't have to tell you is the proverbial UNACCEPTABLE, and bringing in Louisville adds a potent challenger to the mix.

Baseball

2009-2010: 50 (Md. 0; UVA 64)
2010-2011: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 83)
2011-2012: 50 (Md. 0; UVA 25)
2012-2013: 73 (Md. 0; UVA 64)
2013-2014: 73 (Md. 64; UVA 90)

Totals: 246; 64; 326

Maryland's surprising super regional run notwithstanding, this is a huge and relatively high-profile upgrade.  There aren't cross-division rivals in baseball, so we really have no idea whether we'll even play Louisville right away, but they'll certainly make the pathetic Atlantic rather more worthwhile.  The Cardinals have put in an appearance in Omaha each of the last two seasons; they've never won there, but this move to the ACC can only help them - and the conference.

Men's golf

2009-2010: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 65.25)
2010-2011: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 27.5)
2011-2012: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 51.5)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 39)
2013-2014: 21.5 (Md. 0; UVA 33.5)

Totals: 21.5; 0; 216.75

Women's golf

2009-2010: 33 (Md. 21; UVA 63)
2010-2011: 40 (Md. 0; UVA 80)
2011-2012: 0 (Md. 24; UVA 80)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 42)
2013-2014: 20.5 (Md. 0; UVA 61.5)

Totals: 93.5; 45; 326.5

Our men's team isn't a big contender, typically finishing mid-pack in the conference tournament and scraping a few national points here and there.  The women's team, quietly, is one of the better ones in the country; not quite a major contender for the national championship, but they're generally in strong contention for ACC titles.  Maryland is none of the above and Louisville is a bit better, but not going to be a big deal.

Women's lacrosse

2009-2010: 0 (Md. 100; UVA 60)
2010-2011: 0 (Md. 90; UVA 25)
2011-2012: 0 (Md. 83; UVA 25)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 90; UVA 70)
2013-2014: 53 (Md. 100; UVA 83)

Totals: 53; 463; 263

Again, like field hockey, the ACC is taking a pretty big downgrade here.  Maryland is a powerhouse, and working on a six-year Final Four streak.  Louisville's team is relatively new, playing their first season in 2008.  They've been a mediocre Big East team most of their existence, with the exception of one horrible year in 2012 and one really good one this year.  If they carry that success forward, they'll present a challenge, but the ACC is a much different beast than the Big East, even without Maryland.

Rowing

2009-2010: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 100)
2010-2011: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 63)
2011-2012: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 100)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 75)
2013-2014: 40 (Md. 0; UVA 75)

Totals: 40; 0; 413

Nothing to see here.  Maryland has no team, so there'll be one extra boat at the ACC championships; regardless, nobody's touching UVA any time soon.

Softball

2009-2010: 50 (Md. 25; UVA 0)
2010-2011: 50 (Md. 25; UVA 0)
2011-2012: 50 (Md. 25; UVA 0)
2012-2013: 25 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2013-2014: 25 (Md. 0; UVA 0)

Totals: 200; 75; 0

Like rowing, but the other way around.  UVA went 8-43 this year with half a roster.  Yes, that's the nadir, one hopes, but Louisville is too good a team for us to care where they land in the conference.  (Near the top, most likely, but not quite championship material.)

Men's tennis

2009-2010: 64 (Md. 0; UVA 83)
2010-2011: 50 (Md. 50; UVA 90)
2011-2012: 25 (Md. 0; UVA 90)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 100)
2013-2014: 25 (Md. 0; UVA 83)

Totals: 164; 50; 446

Back to not caring where in the hierarchy they land, so long as it's behind us.  Louisville has a respectable tennis team, but it's about to join the fight for second place.  Actually, playing in a conference will be somewhat new to them; the Big East had a conference tournament but its teams didn't really play each other during the season.  Louisville's been playing against ACC teams more than Big East teams, and the Cardinals more or less split those matches.

Women's tennis

2009-2010: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 50)
2010-2011: 0 (Md. 25; UVA 64)
2011-2012: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 64)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 64)
2013-2014: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 73)

Totals: 0; 25; 315

Very little to speak of here; Louisville usually has had winning records, but they pad out their schedule with a lot of fluff, and haven't had an invite to the NCAAs since 2008.  They won't be a big factor in the ACC, and UVA should expect to beat them most if not all of the time.

Men's track and field

2009-2010: 56 (Md. 0; UVA 49.5)
2010-2011: 46 (Md. 25.5; UVA 46)
2011-2012: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 15)
2012-2013: 13 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2013-2014: 0 (Md. 0; UVA 25)

Totals: 115; 25.5; 135.5

Women's track and field

2009-2010: 36 (Md. 42.5; UVA 0)
2010-2011: 27 (Md. 0; UVA 44)
2011-2012: 22 (Md. 0; UVA 0)
2012-2013: 0 (Md. 9; UVA 0)
2013-2014: 61.5 (Md. 35; UVA 18)

Totals: 146.5; 86.5; 62

Consistent success in this sport has eluded Louisville, the same as it's eluded UVA and Maryland, and it's going to be hard to predict anything here other than that Louisville probably will be better than Maryland was and won't be a huge threat to win any ACC titles.

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Yes, I took an extended break for the Fourth, there, and I'll do it again next week, too.  Part of it was, I was totally going to write a weekend review yesterday and then I realized, most of the stuff I wanted to write about was from Jeff White's column.  So just read that instead.

Summer break for me starts this Friday, but I'll write stuff Wednesday and Thursday, and then Thursday and Friday next week.